The summer beer festival season kicks off this weekend with Odell Brewing's Small Batch Festival, which it revived last year in a new format -- one that seems to be working. Born in 2007 as the Small Batch Revival, the fest lasted two years and welcomed about 1,000 people before taking two years off for a brewery expansion. The event returned last year and hosted 3,000 people; this year, Odell is expecting about 5,000.
But growing crowds at beer fests (see our rundown of a few upcoming ones below) aren't unique to Odell.
Avery Brewing routinely sells out its smaller-scale fests like the Strong Ale Festival, which took place in March, and Sourfest, which is coming up on June 2.
In fact, the 400 tickets for Sourfest sold out within two minutes, leaving a lot of bummed out beer lovers. "As soon as they went online, they were gone," says Avery spokesman Joe Osborne. "I know we got flamed a little, but that is the nature of the beast.
"What it comes down to is just reality," he adds. There is a real scarcity of these types of beers among the breweries. We'd love to make it a two-day event, but there just isn't enough beer. If we did that, we'd have to sell 200 tickets for each day."
Great Divide Brewing in Denver will also hold its annual birthday bash and block party in June -- an event that sells out every year.
Brewery spokeswoman Hanna Laney says Great Divide will cap ticket sales at 1,500 people, though, like it did last year, in order to keep lines short and "make the experience more enjoyable for everyone."
Here are some of the larger festivals coming up this weekend and in June:
May 26 Small Batch Festival Odell Brewing Fort Collins The fest runs from 3 to 7 p.m. and includes music, food and lots of unusual beers made on Odell's pilot brewing system. Examples include: Wooden Elephant, an award-winning oak aged IPA; Mash of the Titan, a chocolate coffee stout; Footloose, a golden sour aged with brettanomyces and lactobacillus; and Kiwi IPA, brewed with three kinds of New Zealand-grown hops. There is no entrance fee, but beer tokens cost $4 each and are good for one beer. Tunes are courtesy of Musketeer Gripweed, Constitution, and Justin Roth. Odell suggests you ride your bike as parking is limited; leave your dog at home.
June 2 Sourfest Avery Brewing Boulder Sadly, this festival SOLD OUT within minutes of tickets going on sale -- something that brewery spokesman Joe Osborne says couldn't be helped.
June 9 Burning Can Oskar Blues Lyons Burning Can, the Oskar Blues-sponsored canned craft beer festival, is back for its second year (it skipped 2011), and this time the brewery has teamed up with the Lyons Outdoor Games, a celebration of outdoor sports like cycling, kayaking and fly fishing. Canned beer from 25-plus breweries will be available for sampling, along with live music, food trucks and various sporting expos, like a one-mile run and dirt-jump bike competition. Proceeds benefit the Lyons Department of Parks and Recreation and the Colorado Brewers Guild. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 day of (get $5 off of the day-of ticket price if you ride your bike to the festival as Bicycle Longmont will be providing bike valet. Burning Can runs from noon to 4 p.m. at Bohn Park in Lyons. Tickets are available at http://2012burningcanbeerfestival-es1.eventbrite.com/?srnk=1.
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June 16 Great Divide 18th Anniversary Party Great Divide Brewing Denver Great Divide shuts down Arapahoe Street for its annual birthday bash and block party, featuring numerous special release beers that aren't available elsewhere and four foodtrucks; the $25 entry ticket includes one food ticket. There will also be live music from Bonnie & The Beard, The Knew, Tin Horn Prayer and the Kentucky Street Parlor Pickers. The party runs from 2 to 6 p.m. and it will sell out.
June 23, 24 The 23rd Annual Colorado Brewers' Festival LaPorte Avenue and Mason Street Fort Collins This two-day fest features more than sixty beers from forty Colorado breweries, food and live music from several bands. For hours, ticket prices and more info, go the Downtown Fort Collins web site.